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The Early 1960s and Civil Rights

Describe and analyze the impact of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on U.S. society in the early 1960s

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was the primary and largest Civil Rights organization in the U.S. in the early 1960s. It emerged as part of the peaceful protests and boycotts throughout the South against segregation. The organization supported and advocated non-violent and peaceful resistance as demonstrated by its leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Its societal impact can be described as a unifying organization for Civil Rights, combining political and legal minds, religious groups and churches, as well as advocating on behalf of many individual cases affected by segregation (Moss and Thomas 2012, 108).

The SCLC was a major reason for the success of many Civil Rights initiatives as well as lesser violence. Furthermore, the organization focused strongly on economic inequality, poverty, poor education, voting suppression, and other issues which affected marginalized racial groups such as African Americans. The SCLC became a foundation and integral part of African American communities in the South, offering protection and unity as part of its spiritual objective to unite through faith. The SCLC helped organize famous Civil Rights events which sparked a shift in social perspectives. Through public protests as well as legal activism, the racially segregated social order was disrupted. Illegal Jim Crow laws were eventually removed, while the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the African American community in cases such as Brown vs. Board of Education.

What was the Bay of Pigs incident? What was its impact on President Kennedy and his engagement in the Cold War? Explain

When Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, he established a Communist, Soviet-friendly regime. This was worrisome for the US, and many Cuban nationalists as well who went to the opposition or fled to Florida. For years, the CIA had been planning to use these Cuban nationalists as a guerilla force to begin an uprising on the island. When Kennedy came to office, he approved the plan as he thought that the Castro regime should not have come into power, located so close to the US. The plan was executed as an invasion was launched by sea, in the Bay of Pigs off the Cuban coast. However, the invasion was met with resistance by the Cuban military and ultimately failed to make successful landing (Moss and Thomas 2012, 112).

The invasion was a public embarrassment for Kennedy and globally criticized. Although records show that initially, Kennedy ordered the assassination of Castro, publicly he changed his approach to being more diplomatic. He offered economic assistance to other Latin American nations to resist Communism and demonstrated diplomatic competency during the Berlin and Cuban Missile crises, avoiding the rash and military-based decisions that led to the Bay of Pigs failure.

What was the Cuban Missile Crisis? What effect did it have on U.S. society? How did it impact the Cold War? Do you think that JFK did the right thing? Explain

The Cuban Communist government led by Castro was increasingly in alliance with the Soviet Union, which saw it as an opportunity to deploy arms near the U.S. border. The arms build-up was ongoing but was tolerated and closely observed by the U.S. as long as the weapons were defensive in nature. The Cuban Missile Crisis began when American spy aircraft photographed Soviet missiles deployed in Cuban. The intercontinental ballistic missiles had the capability to carry nuclear warheads.

This was done in secrecy and directly threatened the United States (Moss and Thomas 2012, 115). The Cuban Missile Crisis impacted the US society as the closest that the world came to WWIII during the Cold War in a direct confrontation with the Soviet Union. It inherently tested the principle of deterrence and diplomacy of the Kennedy administration to peacefully resolve a nuclear crisis.

In executive deliberations, it was discussed that the crisis may be part of psychological warfare by the Soviets but nevertheless had military and geopolitical implications. In his address to the US, Kennedy voiced the imminent threat to the Western hemisphere and the Soviet violation of major international treaties. Despite many recommendations to do so, Kennedy did not authorize military strikes on the missile sites (“Executive Discussions on the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)”).

He enforced a blockade of Cuba which prevented further weapons from arriving at the island. Meanwhile, he began rapid negotiations with the Soviet Union, eventually arriving at a compromise that the missiles would be removed. This decision was the right thing to do because Kennedy avoided a full confrontation that would have most likely erupted in case of military strikes. He practiced patience and long-term strategy, demonstrated a level of force through the blockade which presented a strong side to the U.S. and engaged in diplomacy which led to evident results.

Describe the circumstances surrounding the construction of the Berlin Wall. How did this impact the Cold War? Does it seem strange that a socialist country would need to build a wall to keep its citizens from leaving? Explain

After WWII, Berlin, similar to Germany was divided into zones which were controlled by the Allies. Eventually, Western nations united their zone into one unified area, while the Soviet Union controlled both East Germany and East Berlin. However, Berlin was located deep in East Germany, and the Soviet Union disliked and distrusted Western presence in its territory. After failed negotiations to legitimize Soviet control over Berlin and East Germany, a physical barrier began to be erected at the border splitting the city. The Berlin wall served both practical and ideological purposes. It helped to prevent numerous refugees fleeing Communist rule and persecution in East Germany as well as a limited flow of propaganda and Soviet-banned contraband (Moss and Thomas 2012, 115)

The construction of the Berlin Wall had a profound impact on the Cold War as it became a symbol for the “Iron Curtain,” an ideological divide between the Democratic West and Soviet-influenced countries. It concretely showed that the Soviet Union was willing taking drastic measures to isolate its spheres of influence and establish control. Kennedy, in his speech to Berliners, noted that atrocity of this decision and how it violates fundamental freedoms and values of the modern society, good faith, and rights of choice (“President Kennedy’s Address to the People of Berlin (June 28, 1963)”).

It is not strange that the socialist country would resort to such tactics as many autocratic forms of government used physical force and barriers to retain control in history. Without direct opposition and other methods of fear and control, socialist countries choose walls to confide their citizens with both physical and ideological barriers.

Who were the Freedom Riders? What was their impact on U.S. society? Explain

Freedom Riders were a group of travelers and activists which demonstrated political protest of segregation by traveling throughout the South by bus. In their interstate travel, they practiced peaceful resistance by violating rules of segregation and also spread the ideology of tolerance and equality. Freedom Riders visited segregated bus terminals and their facilities, disobeyed passenger restrictions, and propagated Constitutional rights. Freedom Riders faced numerous incidents of violence but also had the support of the Congress of Racial Equality and other Civil Rights organizations (Moss and Thomas 2012, 109).

Their impact on society and the Civil Rights movement by the Freedom Riders is tremendous. They challenged the status quo and social norms of a highly segregated society in the South as well as unlawful enforcement of racially-biased laws and policies. First, they advocated and successfully ended segregation in public transport and interstate travel. Second, the social activism and symbolic gestures demonstrated by the Freedom Riders led to a larger public awareness of the racial problems occurring in the South. National attention was drawn towards the local area as violence occurred against the Freedom Riders for the purpose of enforcing segregation. Finally, they were part of the non-violent protest movement which demonstrated that social and political change could be achieved through peaceful means.


Executive Discussions on the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962).Pearson Myhistorylab. Web.

Moss, George D., and Evan A. Thomas. Moving on: The American People Since 1945, 5th ed. London: Pearson, 2012.

President Kennedy’s Address to the People of Berlin (June 28, 1963).Pearson Myhistorylab. Web.

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